Access to clean drinking water is a BIG issue, but with the invention of a tiny-but-powerful personal water purification system, South African communities could reap the benefits of a small solution.
Working in a way that's exactly opposite to that of a normal tea bag, the nano filter created by scientists at Stellenbosch University, in Cape Town, South Africa is able to suck toxic contamination right out of the water.
Small enough to fit into the neck of a water bottle, these tiny sachets are made from the same inexpensive raw materials used to produce the rooibos tea bags that are popular in South Africa.
Instead of filling the bags with tea, however, the scientists have implemented ultra-thin nanoscale fibres, which filter out contaminants, plus active carbon granules, which kill bacteria.
"What is new about this idea is the combination of inexpensive raw materials, namely activated carbon and antimicrobial nanofibres, in point-of-use water filter systems," Marelize Botes, researcher in the university's department of microbiology, told SciDev.net.
When water purification facilities are in efficient, or non-existent as is the case for most rural South African villages, waterborne diseases can spread quickly and have deadly effects.
Each tea bag filter can make one liter of the most polluted water completely drinkable in a matter of minutes. Once discarded, the bag's nanofibres disintegrate in liquids after a few days and will have no environmental impact. The raw materials of the tea-bag filter are not toxic to humans. Amazingly, each bag is slated to cost around three South African cents (just under half a US cent).
Professor Eugene Cloete, a microbiologist at the University of Stellenbosch said that the nano filter is a major step towards helping South Africa fulfil its millennium goal of eradicating poverty.
"One of the major problems of meeting the millennium goals is that there is not sufficient infrastructure to pipe water to everybody in the world - so this really is something which addresses the need right now," Cloete said.
Image Credit: Flickr - agirlwithtea